We are just six days into session and already facing chaos.
Taken Tuesday morning when I arrived on the House floor too early.
The phrase “right and wrong” is reverberating through every inch of the Capital.
My usual task is to weigh in on legislation and determine via the hearing and testimony process if a bill is good for Missouri, and often if proposals are “right or wrong”. I’ve talked quite a bit with 4th graders about this concept as they study state government and often think of their discussions when facing tough votes on the House floor.
But in the last few days, determining “right and wrong” hasn’t been about policy, but instead about ethics, behavior and a potential investigation of Governor Greitens.
I’ve had to consider the responsibilities of being a potential mandatory reporter and the “right and wrong” of protecting/intervening. When does scandalous information become necessary public knowledge and when is it “right” to protect those who have not given consent, particulary when alleged abuse or criminal acts may be involved?
The answers aren’t in any legislative handbook and are not easy.
I applaud St. Louis Public Radio and other media outlets in the past few days who have carefully considered their journalistic ethics, integrity and responsibility to the public. This is an important read and has helped me: “Editor’s note: Scandals may be fun, but they aren’t always journalism”.
As someone who cares deeply about gender issues and close to the “MeToo” and “TimesUp” movement of those revealing painful stories of harassment and abuse, I’m aware of the danger of re-victimization, particularly when consent to go public has not been given. Victims of bullying and blackmail don’t usually have resources at the ready for legal protection or knowledge how to navigate a sudden media storm of publicity. When are they in charge of their own story? Is it “right or wrong” for a media outlet to go undercover to obtain someone’s story? Is it “right or wrong” to publish or record or photograph without consent?
Listen to this podcast as St. Louis Post Dispatch journalists debate their own ethics, knowledge and complicated pursuit of what is truth—HERE.
The Missouri legislature may be involved in determining “right and wrong” if the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s formal investigation of Gov. Greitens concludes that further actions be taken. Myself and other electeds have asked for this investigation after the story hit late Wednesday evening.
I know that many policies Governor Greitens has advanced in the past year are completely wrong. I know full well that his special session costing taxpayers substantial money to further interfere in constitutionally protected medical procedures was wrong. Repealing the St. Louis minimum wage law was wrong, as was cutting seniors from state home care assistance. Hurting people for corporate and political gain is wrong. Being non-transparent, harassing legislators and soliticing dark money is wrong. The list is growing (a good one HERE) and all to me are flat out “wrong”.
And now we are faced with ethical decisions in the coming days – not about an affair to which Gov. Greitens has publicly admitted, but if criminal extortion and coercion was involved. If so, what is our legislative responsibility?
Never ending serious business in the Capital…what is right and what is wrong”.
LEGISLATION AND ALL THAT…
To date, there are 884 House bills filed for 2018 session (pre-filing began December 1st) and 112 non-binding House resolutions. In Missouri we must start fresh every year with legislation every though we ourselves are in the later of a two year term. The deadline to introduce bills for 2018 is March 1st.
I have filed 20 bills and one resolution to date with a few more to be introduced. As I have the past eight years, I focus primarily on reproductive health, gun violence prevention and voting rights.
Committee hearings have begun and my committee assignments remain the same: Children & Families, Elections (am the ranking Democrat member) and Crime and Public Safety.
If you would like to track certain bills, I highly recommend this simple and free tool, www.FastDemocracy.com. Our office will be using this to track legislation which often moves faster than we can keep up with.
If you would like to come lobby, testify or even watch a public hearing, please check the Hearing schedules (updated almost every day) at www.house.mo.gov or call my office 573.751.0100. Any one is welcome, you don’t have to sign up and we badly need citizen involvement to weigh in on the mountain of bills we hear.
PROGRESSIVE CAUCUS HEARS FROM CIVIL RIGHTS & SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCATES
Every year, as chair of the House Progressive Caucus, I invite numerous advocates and organizations to address us early on of their 2018 legislative concerns.
This past Tuesday we assembled them all in the Capitol (not an easy feat) for a policy packed meeting. I rely on all of them during session and appreciate their commitment to “real people”.
I was proud & honored that the nationally acclaimed Rev. Traci Blackmon joined us and graciously opened the Progressive Caucus meeting with an inspirational message for us to “treat conditions as crisis” – as they are for many in our state. I deeply admire her passionate work for civil justice as a national executive with the United Church of Christ and senior pastor at Christ the King United Church of Christ in Florissant.
Back row – Ed Smith with Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Jen Bersdale with Missouri Healthcare for All, Shira Bernstein with Central Reform Congregation, Alison Dreith with NARAL Prochoice-Missouri, Elizabeth Fuchs with PROMO, Staci Pratt with Missouri Alternatives to Death Penalty; Denise Lieberman with Advancement Project, Michael Berg with Missouri Sierra Club, M’evie Mead and Sean Whiting with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Missouri.
Front row – Rep. Stacey Newman, Sara Baker with ALCU of Missouri, Kristin Bowen with Missouri Moms Demand Action, Michelle Trupiano with Missouri Family Health Council and Jeanette Mott Oxford with Empower Missouri.
#GOV101 KEEPS ROLLING
Last Saturday I hosted via ProgressWomen.com our 8th statewide #GOV101 seminar at Unity Temple in Kansas City with my seatmate and close friend, Rep. Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City) and 150 participants from five Congressional, 15 State Senate and 26 State House districts. Since January 2017, #GOV101 has worked with almost 2000 new activists and engaged citizens throughout the state helping to de-mystify state government. Our goal is to engage more of you in working with us at the state level & being a vital part of democracy.
Panelists at #GOV101 in Kansas City: (left to right above) Anatolij Ggeelliimmssoonn with FastDemocracy.com, Rachel Sweet with Planned Parenthood Great Plains, Sara Baker with ACLU of Missouri, Rep. Stacey Newman, Rep. Judy Morgan and Mandi Kowalski with PROMO.
#GOV101 with Future Medical Professionals
It was an icy night but was thrilled this past Thursday evening to be with Washington University and St. Louis University medical students for a mini #GOV101 along with M’evie Mead of Planned Parenthood Advocates in Missouri. They loved our new audience exercise of voting on real bills. I can’t tell you how fun it was to talk healthcare policy with those who understand and actually appreciate science!
REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH EVENT YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS
Hosted by ProgressWomen.com and featuring Lizz Winstead, co-creator of The Daily Show and founder of Lady Parts Justice, the event on Saturday, February 17th, 10am at the Ethical Society in St. Louis also features panels of reproductive health physicians, faith leaders and a special panel on crisis pregnancy centers and maternal mortality rates for black women.
To date we have 16 anti-reproductive health anti-women anti-medical community bills filed and already moving but many more positive ones as well.
If you care about the state of reproductive freedom in Missouri, this event is designed to give you all the information you need to get involved right now.
More information and ticket registration HERE.